August 31, 2015

Annabelle Pendlebury

Like Queen Bey, I too am sick and tired of the notion that pretty hurts (this is only one of many qualities that Beyoncé and I share. Need I mention the booty?).

I am thankful to be alive in the twenty-first century where it is socially acceptable for women to forego wearing corsets, meaning my fainting fits caused by lack of breath are not the fault of fashion but are usually because I stepped onto a treadmill. While women may have waved the corset goodbye, are discomforts in the name of fashion still an everyday burden females are supposed to bear?

A recent promotional email from Sportsgirl would suggest yes.

As Winter enveloped Melbourne in its shroud, Sportsgirl sent out emails to their subscribers to advertise the season’s clothes. Rather than telling girls to rug up, Sportsgirl strangely advocate for girls to bare more flesh as though it were Summer. The phrase “How will you bare?” further promotes the idea that to live up to fashion trends this season requires being mighty cold– something that girls will just have to learn to live with.

Sportsgirl Ad

Look, perhaps the Sportsgirl team are also die-hard Queen Bey fans and simply misheard the lyrics to Survivor. For years perhaps the Sportsgirl offices have echoed with the sounds of their employees singing cheerily, if incorrectly, “You thought that I would die in winter/ But I’m living”. This misinformation could be very confusing. I can relate – belting out the wrong lyrics to your jam is the worst (apparently, Taylor Swift doesn’t have a long list of “Starbucks lovers”??).

Yet, despite this recommendation from Sportsgirl to begrudgingly accept freezing legs and move on, I prefer to live in a world where the array of fashion options for women match the comfort levels of fashion designed for men. Unfortunately, equal standards of comfort do not seem to be a priority in the fashion world. While it seems hard to imagine a men’s store promoting shorts in winter, the idea of chilly legs is apparently not absurd for women.

This is because it is standard practice. As a society, we seem to accept the fact that women have to put more time and effort into their appearance than men. A woman’s appearance is the greatest commodity she has to offer and so apparently we should be willing to prioritise it above silly, trivial factors such as comfort, warmth and even health. Spoiler alert: it turns out Sportsgirl are not alone in expecting women to simply get over physical needs for the sake of looking good. The never-ending list of cumbersome beauty expectations reveals this truth.

Beauty Burden #1: High Heels.

High heels damage the very health of women everywhere, yet they are often considered a fashion staple. After a couple of hours in high heels, I usually feel like I’ve been stabbed in the foot with a blunt knife repeatedly, but if you really want to visualise it, imagine someone is doing this to your foot again and again:

Despite this, the reality is that 72% of women wear high-heeled shoes, sacrificing comfort in order to don footwear that has been classified as attractive. According to a study by The College of Podiatry, almost 50% of women have suffered from foot problems caused by uncomfortable shoes. In stark contrast, just 12% of men in the study had put up with uncomfortable shoes because they looked good. Women face an increased amount of foot problems due to wearing heels, such as bunions, joint pain, muscle pain and long-term problems such as nerve damage or leg tendon damage.

At the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, women were actually refused entry to the event if they were missing a pair of heels! Though the director of the festival has since apologised, the fact still remains that festival officials on the night saw fit to dictate what women could and could not wear. At an event showcasing people for their work, women were not treated as professional equals. By making an uncomfortable fashion item compulsory, it was effectively telling women their number one priority should instead be to look sexy.

Beauty Burden #2: Make-up.

Sometimes, I have so much going on that I give myself a mental self-five on mornings when I actually remember to shower, brush my hair, brush my teeth and eat.

In this regard, it would seem I have more than one celeb soul sister (soz Beyoncé) – Kesha. She knows the struggle is real. She’s in such a hurry, she brushes her teeth with a bottle of Jack.

Throw make-up routines into the mix and it adds an extra level of stress for girls that guys don’t have to deal with. Make-up exposes perhaps the scariest revelations about our warped world. While make-up doesn’t usually cause pain (unlike high heels), it is far from harmless. Billion-dollar beauty industries feed women the lie that to have a normal-looking face, they should wear make-up. Showering and not smelling like morning breath isn’t enough for females, though it is enough for males. Their faces are deemed acceptable as they are, left untouched. Yet females must hide any imperfections or blemishes from the world because their number one job is to look attractive for others.

The mixed messages of make-up: women are told to look "natural", but cover up their face all the same.

The mixed messages of make-up: women are told they should look “natural”, yet cover up their face.

Failing to do this job well enough and appearing in the world less than gorgeous has dire consequences for females. In England in 2011, Harrods employee Melanie Stark excelled at her job for four years before being told she must start wearing make-up to work, in line with new codes for females. She was fired when she refused.

Make-up codes are insulting, for as Melanie Stark puts it, it is “to be told that one’s face is inadequate”. Yet what Harrods also proved is that a female’s worth comes from her appearance rather than how she does her job.

Makeup tools

The requirement to purchase make-up for work not only adds another financial disadvantage for women (as though the pay gap isn’t enough) but it also consumes time and energy. If I added up the fifteen minutes I spend applying make-up products every morning over one year, it totals 91 hours. For males, that time is not wasted applying “eyelash multiplying” mascara. That time is better spent, even if it is simply gaining extra sleep (and brainpower) before school.

That extra 15 minutes sleep in the morning could be the difference between me rolling into my lecture late and trying to write with whatever I’ve grabbed out of my bag, before realising that no, in fact, that tampon is not a pen. Who knows what crazy possibilities await us in a world without make-up?

The Verdict?

Females have enough exhausting, painful beauty routines to adhere to without adding being freezing to the list. The campaign by Sportsgirl to bring skirts with bare legs into popularity during winter well and truly deserves to be shoved into the dusty cupboard of fashion trends gone by, nestled among corsets. There are already far too many trends in existence today that promote beauty for females at agonising cost. Let’s not adopt another.


Annabelle AnniebioPendlebury is a Law/Arts student at LaTrobe University and a founding member of Truth 4 Youth. She likes reading, writing, binge watching TV shows and dreaming about travel. You can follow her on Twitter @anniependlebury


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